07 September 2016

IB Biology Field Trip to Madagascar

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2:45am in Solefields Car Park: 22 would-be tree-huggers piled into a minibus, half-asleep and ready to leave the grey clouds of England for the sunshine of Madagascar. Almost 24 hours later, we arrived in Tana, where we spent the night shivering in our beds; where was this sun we were promised?

On the first day we had our first encounter with Madagascar’s famous lemurs (trying to spot which one most closely resembled King Julian) – animals we would see a lot of throughout the trip!

View the student-made video here

During week 1, (the sun happily found us!) we were camping in the dry forest in Mariarano, where each day comprised of 3 conservation surveys (morning, afternoon and evening) based around a particular theme. Every one promised a new adventure and some had strange names, with surprises in store: ‘hognosing’ involved catching long snakes, coating them in UV powder, releasing them, and returning at night to track the UV trails left behind; ‘mist netting’ consisted of untangling small birds from large, fine nets, identifying and tagging them using metal rings, before a sample of their blood was taken and they were released. Although each survey was different, they were all conducted to collect data about Mariarano’s forest and help its conservation; Madagascar has a unique habitat with extraordinary numbers of endemic species (meaning they can’t be found anywhere else in the world). This makes it a conservation priority, but also means that the forests are literally teeming with wildlife; one minute you could be gazing up at a lemur and turn around to see a chameleon sitting right beside you.

As Mrs Pitcher promised, a week in the forest taught us all the meaning of ‘expedition white’ (anything a light shade of brown is considered pretty clean!), but it taught us all a new appreciation of nature too: I found myself dying to get up close to creatures which might have made me shudder a few weeks previously.

After a full-on few days we were treated to a week of relaxation on the beach in Nosy Be with scuba diving, coral conservation lectures and stunning views: you opened your tent flap onto the beach, looking over the sea and sunset. Once our diving had improved we could help out with the marine surveys too, showing us a completely different side to Madagascan wildlife.

All in all it was an incredible trip and, looking back, I can’t believe so much was packed into 18 days. Madagascar amazed us all with its astonishing environment – even DreamWorks can’t quite do it justice!

Debbie Allen


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